Detroit: A Study in Contrasting Leaders

So, an attorney for the city of Detroit offered an opinion that questioned the validity and the legality of the recently agreed-upon restructuring deal.  The lawyer in question, Krystal Crittenden, authored the opinion, and stated that she was directed to do so by Mayor Dave Bing.  Bing quickly distanced himself from the said opinion, going so far as to deny having to do anything at all with it.  At the same time, members of the City Council, including council member Saunteel Jenkins, stated that this was not the case.  So what’s the deal?

The Mayor was likely in the meeting that authorized the opinion.  Whether or not he voiced full fledged support is open to interpretation.  I think that it’s likely that, while he had his own position on it, everyone, including the Mayor interpreted what was said however they wanted.  More often than not, people hear what they want.  I would also think about the fact that Bing, in his tenure as Mayor, has demonstrated himself as not being a skilled political operator.  Put simply, he’s a businessman, which is fine, but there’s a lot of political skills that are necessary to have that one doesn’t learn running your own company.  When you’re an executive, you do things by fiat.  You give an order, and it’s executed.  Not so with politics.  It’s much more oriented towards fostering consensus, cutting deals and negotiation, rather than simply telling people what to do.

Let us now turn to Mike Duggan, Detroit Medical Center CEO and longtime former Wayne County Executive Ed McNamara ally and operative.  He’s recently moved to Palmer Woods, and there’s increasing reports that he’s mulling a potential bid to run for mayor.  In my opinion, you couldn’t have two more different candidates.  Duggan is interesting.  He has private sector experience, political experience, and, most importantly, the connections from his time working for Ed McNamara.  Critics will charge that he’s too closely linked to the Detroit machine that propelled the likes of former Gov. Jennifer Granholm and former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick to power.  The McNamara machine is potent, but it’s tawdry.  Duggan, by contrast, emerged unscathed by any allegations of corruption in connection with his McNamara service.

Detroit, for a long, long time, hasn’t had the political leadership that the city has needed.  Success in the city seems to come despite the the city government, rather than because of it.  So, when you weigh the prospect of having a politically connected and seasoned executive who has the connections to move policy forward versus a former athlete, it’s not a tough choice.  However, sifting through options on a blog is much different from executing a campaign on the ground.  Time will tell.

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